Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith is suddenly in the spotlight after soaring into the pages of Sports Illustrated. To many in Minnesota, he’s been a star from the moment he set foot on the field, and this recognition is long overdue.
Forget Earl Thomas, Eric Berry, and Eric Weddle; Smith has quietly been the NFL’s best safety since Mike Zimmer arrived as head coach in 2014. In that same time, the Philadephia Eagles have enjoyed comparably elite play from their own safety, Malcolm Jenkins.
Jenkins joined the Eagles in 2014 and played well enough the following season to earn a four-year, $35-million contract extension. In 2015, he was Pro Football Focus’s second-ranked safety and netted one of the that year’s more impressive stat lines — 106 tackles and two interceptions, including a 99-yard return touchdown against the New England Patriots.
Much like Smith for the Vikings, Jenkins is a do-it-all player for the Eagles; he’ll line up deep, creep into the box, and even cover tight ends or wide receivers in one-on-one situations. To Sam Bradford, he’s a familiar, looming presence; to the Vikings, he’s a player the offense must account for on Sunday.